Even though multiple teams have now clinched a playoff berth, they all continue to fight for position.
Currently there are nine AFC teams and 10 NFC teams that have not been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. However, there is only room for six teams from each conference.
Week 16 will begin to shed light on how the final playoff picture will ultimately look. Let's take a look at what lies ahead for every team involved in this battle to decide how things will pan out.
This is how the playoffs would look after Week 15:
|Playoff Picture Through Week 15|
|1||Denver Broncos (11-3)||Seattle Seahawks (12-2)|
|2||New England Patriots (10-4)||New Orleans Saints (10-4)|
|3||Cincinnati Bengals (9-5)||Philadelphia Eagles (8-6)|
|4||Indianapolis Colts (9-5)||Chicago Bears (8-6)|
|5||Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)||Carolina Panthers (10-4)|
|6||Baltimore Ravens (8-6)||San Francisco 49ers (10-4)|
The top seed in the AFC remains up for grabs. After the Denver Broncos fell to 11-3 on the season, they opened the door for other teams to catch up.
This week, the Broncos face off against the lowly Houston Texans. There will be no surprises here as Peyton Manning and Co. will not have any issues rolling over the NFL's worst team.
Denver will not get any help from Kansas City as the Broncos could clinch a first-round bye with a Chiefs' loss.
Kansas City will face off against a good Indianapolis Colts team this week, but the Chiefs simply contain too much firepower for the Colts and should come away with the win.
The Colts' loss basically cements them in the fourth seed as they have already clinched the AFC South.
It also appears that the Cincinnati Bengals will remain in the No. 3 seed as well.
They take on the visiting Minnesota Vikings this week. The Bengals have been flawless at home this season, and that trend will continue in Week 16.
In a very pivotal matchup, the New England Patriots travel to meet the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
Despite a loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 15, the Patriots offense continues to roll, while the defense has been able to apply to pressure to opposing quarterbacks. The inconsistent play of Joe Flacco could be the difference in this one, as the Patriots get a road win.
This outcome keeps the Patriots in the No. 2 seed and could bump the Ravens out of the picture for now.
The Dolphins face off against a stale Buffalo Bills offense this week.
Miami has been playing well of late, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been on fire. The Dolphins will come away with a win and move into the No. 6 seed after Sunday.
The San Diego Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers come away with wins in Week 16 against the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers, respectively. Unfortunately, it will not be enough to propel them into the AFC's top six.
The Seattle Seahawks will clinch home-field advantage this week after they defeat the Arizona Cardinals. The Seahawks are an impressively balanced team on both sides of the ball, and the Cardinals will not be able to keep up.
This outcome keeps the Cardinals on the outside looking in.
In one of the most crucial matchups of Week 16, the New Orleans Saints face off against the Carolina Panthers.
The Saints have struggled on the road this season and will continue to do so against a stout Panthers defense. The Panthers will win this one and shuffle the NFC's playoff picture.
The Philadelphia Eagles meet the Chicago Bears in another pivotal Week 16 contest.
The Eagles defense is reeling, allowing 48 points in Week 15 to Matt Cassel and the Minnesota Vikings. The Bears offense is resurgent with Jay Cutler back under center. Chicago will come away with a surprise road win in Philadelphia this week.
On Monday Night Football, the San Francisco 49ers take on the Atlanta Falcons.
The Falcons have been decimated by injuries this year and should not put up much of a fight against a very strong 49ers squad.
This win will be enough to move the 49ers up to the fifth seed for the impending playoffs.
With a Packers' loss this week, the Detroit Lions remain on the outside looking in, but move up slightly in the rankings. Their only hope to make the playoffs will be a Week 17 win along with a Bears' loss.
The Dallas Cowboys would have a shot to jump into the playoffs with a win this week—especially after a projected Eagles' loss.
However, Kirk Cousins has the Redskins offense firing on all cylinders right now. That's not good news for the Cowboys 32nd-ranked defense.
The Redskins pull off the upset and keep the Cowboys out of the top six this week.
After all of the aforementioned predictions, this is how the NFL's playoff picture will look at the conclusion of Week 16:
|Projected Playoff Picture After Week 16|
|1||Denver Broncos (12-3)||Seattle Seahawks (13-2)|
|2||New England Patriots (11-4)||Carolina Panthers (11-4)|
|3||Cincinnati Bengals (10-5)||Chicago Bears (9-6)|
|4||Indianapolis Colts (9-6)||Philadelphia Eagles (8-7)|
|5||Kansas City Chiefs (12-3)||San Francisco 49ers (11-4)|
|6||Miami Dolphins (9-6)||New Orleans Saints (10-5)|
|Sean O'Donnell's Projections|
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